Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12, verses 1-2.
These are the same verses from yesterday, but I’ve added in the last sentence in verse 2. It’s one of the most famous, most quoted verses in the entire Bible. To get the full effect, you really need the previous words. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Read that to yourself over and over a few times, and try to let it sink in.
Yesterday we talked about Franklin Graham and his relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Neither Franklin Graham nor anyone in Samaritan’s Purse set aside pure joy to endure pure torture for you or anyone else. We talked about volunteers and first responders fighting fires and rebuilding after hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. None of them ever set aside joy, endured the cross, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. Your neighbors haven’t done this. Barack Obama never did this and can’t; ditto Donald Trump. Neither can Brad Pitt, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Benny Hinn, Miss America 2017, nor your saintly little old lady grandma.
Jesus did. He didn’t just do it willingly: He did it lovingly, fully, without hesitation. It’s the theme of the entire Bible and the central event in all of human history. Everything that every is or was or will be hinges on Jesus dying on the cross, then rising to live forever.
The creator of all things, the most powerful being imaginable, who created everything simply by speaking; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (as both Isaiah and Handel called Him): He, the omnipotent and omniscient God willingly, enthusiastically let sinners He created nail Him to the most humiliating device of torture ever devised in hell. He did it with gusto. Jesus not only took the worst mankind could throw at Him: He ASKED for it. He ran the race of life fully, to its end, to show us where we were going.
He did so because Barack, Donald, Brad, Francis and the rest of us can’t. We simply can’t. We aren’t Him; we aren’t God. He is. We desperately needed Him to do it, too. All too often, we don’t throw off those entangling sins. Too often, the race seems like too much for us.
Yet there He is in the race, running ahead of us, drawing our gaze, our focus. He’s in there to pace us, to give us someone to run toward. He beckons us to persevere, to endure because He endured much tougher things than our day to day lives. Notice that Jesus doesn’t take us out of the race. He doesn’t pluck us from the middle of the world, removing us from our sins. No, Jesus stays with us to give us a reason to push forward. The reason is Him, sitting as equal with His Father in heaven, beckoning us to persevere, to run the race day by day. With Him there is peace now and a meaningful forever. In Him is the victory; in Him is the goal of running the race. All of human history prepared for His coming, and when He came, all of history after Him was set on a different path. No empire could prevent His resurrection; no ideology can refute it, deny it, or withstand it. Every Christmas, memes and cards say “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s true, but don’t bottle that up until the Holidays. Jesus is the reason you run your race today. He’s there in every step, not just every December.
Get up and get back in your race. Your goal is dead ahead. For the joy set before Him Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. He did it so you could run your race.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 10:36, Psalm 25:15, Hebrews 2:10, Philippians 2:8-9, Mark 16:19.
Lord, I lift up Your Name to praise You for running my race with me. Abide with me, push me forward, and help me to finish in Your strength.